Abstracts - Commerce and Illegality, 1500-2000

Nancy Cox, University of Wolverhampton 14.00 - 14.30

'Adulteration or Additive?: Extra ingredients in early modern food'The starting point for this paper is the difficulty of distinguishing adulteration (even in the early-modern period seen as undesirable and in many cases illegal), contamination (undesirable but accidental) and additive (seen as desirable by both the trade and the customers, but sometimes definitely not a good thing).

Full abstract available soon

Email: n.c.cox@wlv.ac.uk

Ian Mitchell, University of Wolverhampton, 14.30 - 15.00

'Unlawful or just enterprising: the (in)effectiveness of trade regulation in some 18th century Cheshire towns'

In 1758 the city authorities in Chester started legal proceedings against a Mrs Daffy for allegedly operating an illegal market near Chester Castle.

The market threatened the city’s income and its ability to control trading within its boundaries; but those who used the market argued its usefulness to consumers.

Disputes like this were common in the eighteenth century. Market owners were keen to protect their property, and some retailers were happy to use traditional regulations to protect themselves against competition. But such regulation was increasingly breaking down as more traders simply ignored the rules.

 Technically they were trading illegally, and could face legal proceedings, but were they also representative of a more enterprising approach to business?

This paper uses some Cheshire examples to explore the tension between traditional trade regulation and actual practice of market trading and retailing in the eighteenth century. Being on the wrong side of the law may sometimes have been a necessary step on the road to more modern trading practices.

Email: ianandmarym@tiscali.co.uk

David J Cox, Keele University 15.00 - 15.30

'Copper-bottomed cases for coppers to get to the bottom of - the plundering of the Adamant, Newhaven, Sussex, December 1815'.

On 27 December 1815, The Times carried a report of the shipwreck of the Adamant from Malta. The ship was previously a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Thrasher, and as such was intrinsically valuable for her copper-bottomed hull. She had foundered in bad weather off the Sussex coast near Newhaven, carrying a considerable amount of cargo, underwritten by the insurers, Lloyd’s of London, for £100,000. Not surprisingly, news of the wreck spread rapidly throughout the locality. The Times reported that ‘the cargo and vessel were besieged by the inhabitants for miles round the country, and considered fair game for plunder’.

Lloyd’s of London were understandably perturbed by the illegal behaviour of the locals, and therefore ‘determined to endeavour to stop the system of plundering wrecks, and to make an example of the ringleaders’. Consequently, two experienced Bow Street Principal Officers were directly employed by the Committee of Underwriters at Lloyd’s to prevent the continuance of the plundering and to recover what stolen cargo they could. They subsequently visited over 200 properties in the area in an effort to stop the wholesale plundering of the vessel.

This paper investigates the activity of plundering and the ways in which the authorities (including insurance companies, law-enforcement officers and the State) tried to prevent its occurrence.

Email: d.cox@crim.keele.ac.uk

Penelope Alfrey, Loughborough University 16.00 - 16.30

'The Parrot in his (her) Shawl: The stealth of Identity, disguise and transformation and the Indian Shawl'

The shawl as a desirable, rather than merely functional, article of dress begins to emerge during the 2nd half of the 18th century as a dominant feature of feminine identity; it is also a period when increased invention in technology and design began to be invested in its manufacturing, expanding its circulation and the range of styles and types of materials that constituted the shawl as a highly symbolic sartorial phenomenon.

At the centre of this growth of a commodity, a key focus fell on the hand-woven Indian shawl – why?

There are a range of possible answers to this question - it was not European, it was difficult to obtain, and it was totally different in fibre, method of production, form, design and the manner in which it could be worn.

Compared to its European imitators, the Indian shawl was a far more complex and exotic article, sometimes illicitly traded. But even at the most modest levels of social position, the shawl was a marker of status and could endow the wearer with a degree of distinction and transformation: "I like shawls: they're so becoming" screeches the parrot in Jean Ingelow's 'The Parrot in his Shawl', from her 'Mopsa the Fairy' collection of children's stories first published in 1867.

Central to this story written for children is imposed identity, disguise and transformation – but it particularly flags the power of cloth to facilitate transformation and disguise.

This paper will explore both the hand-crafted and the machine-manufactured shawl as a coveted article that was, as a consequence of its desirability and relative exclusivity, frequently stolen and extensively imitated for commercial gain.

There is much evidence that the shawl was much coveted as a fashionable and versatile accessory; it was certainly a very profitable commodity.

The fine wool that was, and is still used, to produce the highest quality – the 'shahtus' shawl – is protected by law, yet is regularly smuggled across the Kashmiri border into Pakistan. Since the rise of the pashmina shawl in the 1990's, there has been a steadily increasing number of academic articles, following in the footsteps of Said's thesis on Orientalism, that position the Indian shawl within imperialist appropriation.

This paper will therefore examine the evidence for the claim of appropriation, and attempt to define the underlying cultural and economical reasons what 'stealing' a shawl really signified.

Email: P.Alfrey@lboro.ac.uk

Laura Ugolini, University of Wolverhampton 16.30 - 17.00

'Military Uniforms and Illicit Consumption in Britain, 12914-1918'

Focusing on the British home front during the First World War, this paper explores civilians’ motives for acquiring and wearing military garments and accoutrements to which they were not entitled. It suggests that uniforms could be donned either to avoid the attentions of recruiting sergeants, or to perpetrate criminal deceptions.

That said, individuals did not always wear illicit uniforms in order to ‘disguise’ their civilian identity. Rather, many men claimed a sense of entitlement to such items, either on the basis of previous war service, or, more often, of their contributions to the war effort on the home front.

The acquisition of military items - the paper will suggest - could also reflect men’s roles as consumers: for many civilians, acquiring and wearing the newly glamorous uniforms was a consumer choice that could also open the door to further leisure and consumer opportunities.

Overall, the paper will conclude that illicitly wearing military items undermined the uniform’s link with service and sacrifice on the battle-fronts: it allowed individuals to assume the appearance of combatants or to assert their patriotic identities without reference to military duties or dangers. It also reflected (some) men’s continued perception of themselves as consumers, keen, even in wartime, to adopt what they saw as the most desirable sartorial option.

Email: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk


Dr Laura Ugolini

Room MC334

Tel: 01902 321890

Email: L.Ugolini@wlv.ac.uk